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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Admissions explores test-optional application process

<ir="ltr">In January, Carleton began discussing the possibility of becoming test optional, meaning it would no longer require SAT or ACT scores as a part of its application. The topic has only been officially considered at this point within the admissions and financial aid office. The next step would be bringing it to the Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC), the group that oversees admissions and is the final voting authority on all matters of educational policy. Multiple members of the ECC declined to comment on the test optional issue because the committee has not yet sufficiently explored the issue.

Currently, the SAT is part of the way in which Carleton Admissions makes acceptance decisions. According to Paul Thiboutot, vice president and director of admissions and financial aid, Carleton has always emphasized a holistic review process with applicants and, thus, never uses a single factor like test scores to determine if a student gets accepted.

“I appreciate what standardized tests provide as an additional element in the evaluation of students,” Thiboutot said. “Not as a cut-off, not as a determinant, not as an absolute, but as an added factor.” Despite this lesser priority of testing in the admissions process, there has been recent discussion of making this aspect optional to future Carleton applicant. He pointed out that standardized tests work as a meaningful additional source of evaluation. However, he recognized that there is no such thing as a “fair chance test” and that he would be open-minded in the next steps the College may take in regards to admissions.  

“I’m still in favor of having tests as a part of our curriculum.” Thiboutot said.

Many colleges across the country have implemented a test-optional policy. On the FairTest website, listed are over 850 colleges and universities that do not use SAT or ACT scores to admit substantial numbers of students into bachelor degree programs.

Bowdoin College, a liberal arts school of comparable nature to Carleton, is one of the oldest with this policy, being test-optional since 1969. Hampshire College has taken it a step further, by stating on its website that even if test scores are submitted in an application, the admissions committee will not review them. Much of the reasoning for a test-optional policy has to do with schools deciding that a test cannot tell the whole story of an applicant.

Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college that became test-optional in 2014, explained in a press release, “Background is especially pertinent to standardized testing results, and we do not believe that those results accurately reflect the college potential of all students. Wesleyan believes students should have the power to choose whether or not standardized test results represent their academic achievement and future potential.”

Nancy Meislahn, the Wesleyan Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, stated in an email interview that decision to become test-optional was “anything but abrupt,” and the college really took into consideration the need to now put a greater emphasis on factors like transcript and students’ different backgrounds.

Thiboutot emphasized his ongoing support for having standardized tests, but also reiterated his flexibility towards the future. “If that’s what the college wanted to do, if that’s what the faculty agreed about, we’ll do that,” he said.

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